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End of Me

Hayes, Alfred
Format: Paperback
Publisher: The New York Review of Books, Inc (NYRB Classics)
Published: May 26, 2020
ISBN: 9781681374338
178 pages

£12.99

A moving tale about middle age, divorce, modern love, and returning home by one of the great American storytellers.

Asher’s career as a Hollywood screenwriter has come to a humiliating end; so has his latest marriage. Returning to New York, where he grew up, he takes a room at a hotel and wonders what, well into middle age as he is, he should do next. It’s not a question of money; it’s a question of purpose, maybe of pride. In the company of the arch young poet Michael, Asher revisits the streets and tenements of the Lower East Side where he spent his childhood, though little remains of the past. Michael introduces Asher to Aurora, perhaps his girlfriend, who, to Asher’s surprise, seems bent on pursuing him, too. Soon the older man and his edgy young companions are caught up in a slow, strange, almost ritualized dance of deceit and desire.

The End of Me, a successor to Hayes’s In Love and My Face for the World to See, can be seen as the final panel of a triptych in which Alfred Hayes anatomizes, with a cool precision and laconic lyricism that are all his own, the failure of modern love. The last scene is the starkest of all.

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